Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Review

While originally I was going to review the Skywalker Saga of Star Wars films, I figured why not review all the theatrically released Star Wars films. This unfortunately means I’m reviewing the 2008 big screen premiere of the TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

While this film did help kick-off a well received TV series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a drawn out storyline that would have been better served in an episodic format. The story centres around Anakin Skywalker as he and Obi-Wan Kenobi serve the Republic as Generals in the Clone Wars. He gains a Padawan learner in Ahsoka Tano and a new mission to rescue Jabba the Hutt’s son, who has been kidnapped. The film even feels like a single episode and a two-parter edited together and after seeing every episode of the show, I believe while it serves as a pilot (not a good pilot), it is far from a story that deserved a theatrical release.

The writing was clunky and felt like a children’s show. Now, I understand that it is but there should have definitely been some differences between this, for all intents and purposes – a movie, and the long form television series. It needed to be more cinematic, and I just never felt that. Some of the quips between Skywalker and Tano felt like forced (pardon the pun) attempts to appeal to a younger audience and the dialogue from the battle droids was a failed attempt to provide comic relief in a film without a focus on R2-D2 and C-3P0. The voice acting might have originally gotten some getting used to but like I said, I’ve seen every episode of The Clone Wars, these characters are iterations I have become used to.

Now to the look of the film. A lot of people were originally very against the stylistic choice the creators went with when making the film, the human characters have very angular faces while the droids and the clone troopers looked more-or-less the same as they appeared in the live-action films. Whether or not the style was down to budget or trying to differentiate the animated series from the films, it can take people very much out of the story. I remember not being a fan of the look and while I still don’t love it, I’ve accepted it (which seems to be a reoccurring thing when it comes to films set in this time period). Compared to the TV series, this was definitely made first as some of the animation felt a bit dated even for 2008.

There is not much to say about this film. It was unnecessary, boring and only served one purpose… to start a TV series. While it did achieve it’s goal and Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a great show, delving in to the stories that occur between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, but this is one of my least favourite of those stories and its definitely one you can skip. Watch the show though if you’re a Star Wars fan and haven’t already, it’s worth your time.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Well Below Average

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Star Wars: The Phantom Menace – Review

The first film in the timeline of Star Wars is not character driven, nor is the plot overly that important to the franchise’s mythos. What The Phantom Menace does is sets the stage and introduce the characters for the real story that starts ten years later.

Is the film important? For particular fans, no, for others, absolutely not. The story could probably be a decent 25 minute short to serve as a prelude to the story of Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side. On the plus side, we wouldn’t be as well versed on inter-galactic trade law as we are now if it wasn’t for this film.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace opens on a young Obi-Wan Kenobi and his master, Qui-Gon Jinn on a mission to settle a trade dispute between the Trade Federation and Naboo. The negotiations never occur, the Trade Federation establish a blockade and invade the planet. The Jedi along with the Queen of Naboo flee to the capital planet of Courscant to convince the senate to intervene. Sounds pretty straight forward right? Except along the way the meet a boy who ((SPOILERS)) becomes Darth Vader.

The star of this movie is difficult to pick out as the film has no main character. Liam Neeson plays a great Jedi Knight as Qui-Gon Jinn respects the Jedi Order but also challenges the establishment. Ewan McGregor has little screen time as Obi-Wan Kenobi but The Phantom Menace is a nice little origin story for him. Ian McDiarmid, also did a decent job as Senator come Chancellor, Palpatine. (Funny how the only stand outs in this film were established actors). For almost everyone else it shows that while they may have been good actors, the major fall back came from the direction (or lack there of) from George Lucas. Something you will find with the prequel films is that Lucas seemed to be focused on the over-all story and the look of the films rather than the actors living in the world. As a result, character development and dialogue come up short.

On that point though, the look of the film is fantastic, and for 1999 the use of CGI was bold but they pulled it off. The prequel films are a triumph of visual effects and had Lucas focused on this and left the directing to some of his peers, the general consensus around the films would be much more positive. This does bring me to probably one of the most amazing sequences 7-year-old me could ever have hoped to experience, the battle between the two Jedi and Darth Maul, the platforms, the amazing score by John Williams, the Lightsabers, the flips and the lens flares. What an amazing piece of cinema. Now of course I look back at it and it is very choreographed to the point where it seems more like a dance than if they were actually trying to kill/injure each other. However, it is still a pretty cool scene.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is a below average film with a confused plot and very little direction. It left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths before the turn of the century and it still does. I don’t bash the film as much as a wide range of fans do but it’s not a film I enjoy.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: Below Average

Transformers: The Last Knight – Review

I saw this film last night and since then I’ve been trying to work out what to say about it. I’ve been searching for some remote ounce of quality, some substance, something I liked about it, there isn’t anything. This movie is a terrible mess.

Transformers: The Last Knight picks up after 2014’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, Optimus Prime has left Earth to look for Cybertron and the Humans have decided to hunt down and kill or imprison all of the Transformers. Mark Wahlberg’s character, Cade Yeager lives with the remaining Autobots in a Junkyard. Organisations and individuals on Earth via satellites or just gut instinct know that the end of the world is coming.

From other films, we know that Transformers have been here since no doubt the beginning of time. This story primarily revolves around an ancient staff that was given to Merlin in the middle ages. This staff can destroy Earth and in turn, rebuild Cybertron. That’s the basis of the film and almost everything else that litters this two-and-a-half hour film is unnecessary.

I don’t know where to begin with this to be honest. The script should have been shredded as soon as it was printed. The dialogue is very bad, the Transformers constantly bicker with each other about senseless garbage, the humans are so often yelling at each other, again, about nothing. When the film quietens down, it’s either blatant exposition or garbage. At one point Cade (Mark Whalberg), tunes out some of Anthony Hopkins’ character’s dialogue. Almost every line delivered felt like the actors were reading directly off a script, with no emotion or emotion. Regardless of all this nothingness, the characters keep talking.

There are many story beats and elements in the film that did not need to be there. Let’s begin with Optimus Prime, you’ve probably seen the trailers and know that Optimus Prime has been brainwashed and goes bad – a main feature of the trailer. This was almost completely unnecessary to the film. Optimus Prime, despite being on every poster and featuring in every trailer, isn’t in the film much at all. More elements that were completely irrelevant to the plot include;

  • The young girl, Izabella (played by Isabela Moner, original character name – right?).
  • Almost all of the Autobots (that’s right, this Transformers movie is not about Transformers).
  • A weird flashback to WWII that lasts for all of maybe 2 minutes.
  • A Suicide Squad-esque scene where a few Decepticons are introduced with freeze-frames and title cards as Megatron lists his team.
  • Callbacks to previous Transformers films, a space ship on the Moon, the giant hole in one of the Pyramids of Giza and an awful way to bring Sam Witwicky and the Witwicky (previously known as Witwiccan) family going all the way back to Merlin (Get it? Wizard – Wiccan?).
  • Every ham-fisted attempt at comedy, sex jokes that fall flat, the annoyingly chatty little transformers that interject with a pointless quip and the amount the Transformers are needlessly crass or profane – as if the only thing the writers know about kids is that they find a robot saying ‘shit’ a lot funny.
  • and so many more…

The visual effects were good and pretty standard for a Transformers film. The only issue that the effects suffer is during fight scenes it can sometimes be difficult to determine which Transformer is fighting. But good visual effects can not save a movie with literally nothing else going for it. There was one thing that stuck out to me more than anything (though it did help distract me some times from what ever trash was going on), the aspect ratio. This movie was filmed in about three different aspect ratios, and these different aspect ratios change not between scenes, but between shots. The change in aspect ratios will change the amount of picture you see and the size of the letter-boxing or the black lines you see at the top and the bottom. One person will be filmed talking in IMAX and the reverse shot will be in standard ratio… and this happens in every scene – action scenes, dialogue scenes – EVERY SCENE. I don’t know how some film professional, weather they’re a producer or editor or something and think, “maybe they wont notice”.

Usually I cover other things in reviews like acting and direction or sound but there is everything in those areas are average and are very common to Transformers films. There’s standard Michael Bay direction, some military shots that weren’t too bad, but that’s what Bay does somewhat well and just like the visual effects, does not save this film. The sound brings the usual warp-y, chks and wubs you come to expect and a wide range of garbled ‘dialogue’ (which I would prefer to call noise) from the Transformers. The acting is forgettable and not worth talking about.

We will no doubt see more of these pieces of absolute garbage as there is a standalone Bumblebee movie coming out next year and an as yet untitled ‘Transformers 6’ in 2019. They shoe-horned in extra Bumblebee and a painfully blatant scene setting up the villain for the sixth film, so yeah they’re serious. Adding to the fact, this film will make a lot of money, all Transformers movies make crazy amounts at the Box Office because people everywhere go see it. I can’t even switch off in a movie like this, like I can with some others.

I very much want to give this a ‘ugh’ out of 5. There was nothing that could get this movie out of the dumpster it found itself in. From the first stupid line delivered by a drunken Merlin (yes, there is so much I haven’t mentioned) to the set ups for the next few films in the main story line to the shifting of the aspect ratios, this film was a sporadic mess.

Transformers: The Last Knight: Below Well Below Average

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Review

Zack Snyder’s attempt at the movie we’ve wanted to see for decades fell short of expectations.

In anticipation to Wonder Woman, I watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice again, so here’s the review. PLEASE BE WARNED! While I will try not to go into specifics, there could be some spoiled plot points. While this is a review, it will include some analysis and ‘ways I would do it better’.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice never had the excitement around it that the idea of a Superman/Batman film had. That came from the divisiveness of 2013’s Man of Steel, which I enjoyed for the most part.

The main problem Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is the Dawn of Justice part. This is two movies. The first involves Batman and Superman both being manipulated in to hating each other, they both had their reasons but they were played upon and had their perspective skewed. The story would involve the main characters investigating what seem to be separate leads that all end up being part of the one plan. That plan, was to have Superman kill Batman and that this scenario would have one of two outcomes:

1. To show the world either that Superman would kill someone – God can’t be all good. Or,

2. To show the world that Batman killed Superman – God can’t be all powerful.

Now to me, that sounds like a good story. A little bit of action sprinkled in at certain points, some mystery and intrigue, all culminating in a finale that pits the two DC Comics greats in a battle of Brains (and money) vs. Brawn. Naturally, of course before killing one another they realise they are actually on the same side and they go after the real threat that has been influencing them from the start. We put that threat in jail, while he is in there he plots something bigger, upon his eventual escape, which will be the story of the next film. 2 hours and 10 minutes, simple story, easy to follow, everybody forgets their so-so reaction to Man of Steel, bring on the next film, ‘Dawn of Justice’.

Except that didn’t happen. Instead, that story more or less ends around the 2 hour mark and the remaining 30 minutes of its run time resulted in a ridiculous mess that features an overpowered enemy that came out of nowhere, with very little set up or reason for being there, a character that while awesome (spoilers: it’s Wonder Woman), probably shouldn’t have been in a movie called ‘Batman v Superman’ and particular plot point that probably shouldn’t have seen the light of a projector til ‘Man of Steel 3’. Some shots from the last 30 minutes looked good, but a lot of them were just so cluttered by lighting bolts and laser beams that it lost all meaning. Some of the shots were harder to determine what was going on than being able to determine who’s fighting who in a Transformers movie.

There are more issues with the film, including pacing, writing and editing etc. But I don’t want to be so negative on this film, because there is something there. There’s a movie in here, I have ever since I saw this film believed that. All I need to do it sit down in front of my computer one day and maybe make a cut of my own to prove it. (I don’t want to alarm you but the writers and editor from BvS:DoJ are doing the same jobs on Justice League.)

I very much enjoyed Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne and Batman. He gave the older, gruffer character that the story asked for and we were looking for. That said, I like most of the acting in this film. Henry Cavill and Amy Adams have a shallow dynamic, dialogue-wise but their body language and the look in their eyes said more than the script could. Gal Gadot did a pretty decent job as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and delivered in my favourite shot of the entire film – a small smile during the big fight at the end, a little thing that said so much about the character, it said: “This is fun.”, “I’ve missed this” and “So you want a fight, huh?” all at the same time.

Jeremy Irons brought a new side to Alfred Pennyworth that we hadn’t seen before and I didn’t mind Holly Hunter’s role as a senator leading an enquiry in to Superman. Lawrence Fishburne brought nothing to the role as Perry White and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor left a lot to be desired… there were moments of proper evil to his character but sadly it was overshadowed by his ‘no one comprehends my genius’ shtick mixed with a fair amount of overacting.

The first 2 hours of the movie weren’t bad, it probably could have been done with being an hour and 40, but the story was enjoyable and could be followed somewhat. That being said, this is a comic book movie, and yes, the characters are from comic books, I know. I mean this movie paces like a comic book, it could even do with the odd “Meanwhile” tags in the top left corner in a few scenes, if this film was adapted in to a comic book – it would work. I think that is what sets the current DC films and the Marvel Cinematic Universe apart, Marvel makes movies based on its characters, they have adapted story lines, DC, or at least Zack Snyder seems to adapt the panels. Which is why 300 and Watchmen worked for the fans of those movies, its what they were expecting. It’s not what fans were expecting after Marvel had completed its ‘Phase One’. I think the culture had changed.

After all this though, I like parts of this movie, so it doesn’t fail completely in my opinion. I see this movie for it’s merits and what it tried to do. Don’t get me wrong, I have ideas about how you can fix this and effectively write this movie off – which in the DC Universe at least can be done very easily.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Well Below Average

The Watch – Review

When you see the cast, Stiller, Vaughn, Hill and Ayoade… you think “cool, that might be pretty good”.

When you see that it’s a movie about a neighbourhood watch group taking on aliens… you think “ok, that sound strange but yeah… it might be alright”.

When you see the movie you’ll think… “That was a god awful movie… I want my money back”.

The Watch is out on DVD now and this is a review… but also a warning… to not buy it. If you absolutely must see it… rent it… on like cheap tuesday or something. This movie is not worth the disc it’s burnt to.

Ben Stiller plays a Wal Mart manager who has his life pretty much sorted for him in the quiet community he lives in. But when the night security guard is killed at his store he forms a neighbourhood watch group to find the killer since the police don’t seem to care. The group attacks only three other members, Vince Vaughn as a seemingly single Dad who has a rebellious teenage daughter, Jonah Hill plays a high school drop out who failed to make it as a police cadet and Richard Ayoade as an odd british man who is new to the neighbourhood. A couple of sex jokes and useless profanity later they discover that an alien is responsible and a few more sex jokes and useless profanities later the movie is over. Slight twist that I won’t give away but in the long run. Nothing really happens.

Some bits are slightly funny but overall. Steer well clear of this movie. If you want a good aliens-attack-neighbourhood movie… see Attack the Block.

Just terrible…

The Watch: Well Below Average

Batman & Robin – Review

PART FOUR: Batman & Robin

Directed By: Joel Schumacher

Written By: Bob Kane and Akiva Goldsman

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone and Michael Gough

Gross: $238,207,122

Production Co: Warner Bros. Pictures(Worldwide)

Release Date: 26 June 1997 (Australia)

Runtime: 125 min

Although, in my opinion not as bad as Batman Forever (story-wise), this movie ultimately failed the Batman franchise and is yet another reason why Joel Schumacher is blamed for so much. Batman & Robin is full of disappointing one-liners and really obvious continuity errors as well as poor acting from almost the entire cast. The film opens with Batman and Robin (George Clooney (who should never have been Batman) and Chris O’Donnell respectively) going toe to toe with Mr. Freeze (played by Arnie), a new villain in Gotham City. Then in a “Meanwhile in South America” type scene the two other villains, Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) and Bane are introduced. After a series of events with Ivy causing the dynamic duo to fight over her affection and Mr. Freeze stealing a vast amount of diamonds, the evil pair team up and plot to freeze Gotham and allow Ivy’s plants to rule the world. Also on the scene is Alfred (Michael Gough) ‘s niece Barbra Wilson (Alicia Silverstone), who becomes Batgirl.

All in all the storyline in this move was better than the one in Batman Forever, however the rest of the movie was rueful. Alicia Silverstone won the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress. For those who don’t know the Golden Raspberry (or the Razzie’s) is an awards organisation for the worst movies of the year. Other nominations at the Razzie Awards included Schumacher (Worst Director), George Clooney and Chris O’Donnell (Worst Screen Couple), Akiva Goldsman (Worst Screenplay), both Chris O’Donnell and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Worst Supporting Actor), Uma Thurman (Worst Supporting Actress), and Billy Corgan (Worst Song for “The End Is the Beginning Is the End”). Batman & Robin also received nominations for Worst Picture, Worst Remake or Sequel and Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property. Ultimately, out of 11 nominations, this movie garnered only one Razzie Award, a disappointing feat in it’s own right. Clooney said himself, that he might have killed the franchise and that Batman & Robin was a waste of money.

Batman & Robin: Well Below Average

Batman Forever – Review

PART THREE: Batman Forever

Directed By: Joel Schumacher

Written By: Bob Kane, Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler and Akiva Goldsman

Starring: Val Kilmer, Jim Carey, Tommy-Lee Jones, Chris O’Donnell, Michael Gough and Nicole Kidman

Gross: $336,531,112 (Worldwide)

Production Co: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release Date: 29 June 1995(Australia)

Runtime: 121 min

The critic on the back of the DVD of Batman Forever is quoted in saying “The Best ‘Batman’ Yet”… Maybe they put it on the back of the wrong movie? Batman Forever picks up a few years after Batman Returns, the city is now over run with criminals of all shapes and sizes. Now, Batman must battle Two-Face and The Riddler with help of an amourous psychologist and a young circus acrobat who becomes his sidekick, Robin.

Although this film is good in it’s own way and enjoyable, it sadly lacks the qualities that the original films had and I’d say that one of the main qualities was Tim Burton at the helm as director. Schumacher transforms Burton’s Noir-Expressionistic world into a rave-meets-gothic-architecture-type Gotham City. However that’s not the only down point… Although the acting was good from Jim Carey and Tommy-Lee Jones (Riddler and Two-Face respectively)(You maybe thinking ‘but Harvey Dent was in Batman and he was played by Billy Dee Williams’, and you’d be right, you have one man to blame for this… Joel Schmacher (I blame him a lot) Billy Dee Williams was very ready and excited to play Two-Face however Schmacher decided after working with Jones on The Client, replaced the one and only Lando Calrissian… Shame Schumacher, Shame) the characters they played were below par. The dialogue was to stilted and fake and lets not get into the one-liners that start cropping up and end up being (pretty much) the entire script in the next film.

Warner Bros. wanted to make this film more main stream because Batman Returns was not the box-office success they hoped for and because of this decision and a few others i.e. removing Burton almost completely and telling Schumacher what to film, the movie despite a decent box-office taking (making it the second highest of 1995, Toy Story taking the top spot) received mixed reviews and in my opinion while had some good points was not overly fantastic.

Batman Forever: Well Below Average

I Am Number Four – Review

I don’t see I Am Number Four, coming in at #4 on any list I can think of unless its for Hyped-Up-Mediocre films.

I Am Number Four is an adaptation (yes, thats right… another one) of a book by “Pittacus Lore” (Pen name for: James Frey and Jobie Hughes). This book and film had so much hype around it that the movie rights were bought a year before the book was released, the film was then released six months after the book too so clearly they didn’t muck around. The screenplay was adapted by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, known for creating Smallville, and if your a fan of the first few series of Smallville, you may enjoy this film. The director D.J. Caruso directed Disturbia and Eagle Eye, contrary to what the trailers imply… if you liked Disturbia, this film may not be for you.

The film is about nine alien children sent from there devastated home planet of Lorien as a last hope of the species (sound like anything familiar, Superman fans?). In pursuit of them are another group of aliens, Mogodorians, the ones responsible for the destruction of Lorien. In order to kill the nine remaining children, the “Mogs” (presumably a derogatory term) must kill them in order of the numbers assigned to them at birth… The main character (which you’ve probably guessed) is Number four. They have already killed the first three. There’s a high school love, a jock come bully come psychopath and a boy who believes in aliens (Smallville fans… see why Gough and Millar were drawn to this story?) pretty much everything you need for a tale of epic proportions right?

Wrong! Unfortunately despite the tricky light shows courtesy of everyone’s favourite explosion obsessed producer Michael Bay, the film didn’t do that well. The story line was not presented in a way that excited the viewer, I’m sure the younger generation will enjoy this film for the other features. If you want the story of this I suggest the book, (although I have not read it) chances are like many adaptations at the moment it would be much better than the film.

Featuring two Aussie actors: playing Number Six, another alien child, is Teresa Palmer from Wolf Creek & December Boys. Also playing Sam, the boy who believes in aliens, is Callan McAuliffe, who appeared as minor characters in TV shows like Blue Water High and Packed to the Rafters. Alex Pettyfer, who plays Number Four, plays a character similar to his portrayal of Alex Rider in the poor film Stormbreaker. All in all this movie has a young and more or less unexperienced cast.

So this film did alright, it’s a movie for the masses, and I’d say its better than The Last Airbender (which isn’t hard).

I Am Number Four: Well Below Average (if you liked old Smallville or your 12-15… however parents there is some mild course language, perhaps to make the film more gritty?)

No Strings Attached – Review

On average, one good Rom-Com is made each year… and No Strings Attached, is not it.

No Strings Attached is about a guy and a girl who see each other every now and then by chance and then one night and one fateful morning after that night. They strangely have sex and agree to become ‘friends with benefits’. I’m sure that most of you can already see how this ends… While watching this I could tell that this was an annoyingly dumbed down version of ‘(500) Days of Summer’ (one of my all time favourite movies, so you can see why I was annoyed). The guy was into a relationship but the girl didn’t want to have emotions and didn’t want to put a label on it… it was a cop out right down to a song by the Temper Trap.

Highlight of this movie was Natalie Portman, despite a very poor script she played her roll well. Ashton Kutcher, plays his usual character (I still think the only good thing he was in was Dude Where’s My Car and That 70’s Show). This movie was enjoyable for about the first 30 to 45 mins but then dropped for the rest until it was more drawn out than Lord of the Rings. Look out for the ‘Period Mix’ scene, the funniest part of the movie and also the marker for the drop off.

No Strings Attached: Well Below Average

Just to make things ten times worse… there’s another casual sex movie coming out around July this time featuring another That 70’s Show star, Mila Kunis with Justin Timberlake called… (were you expecting something witty?)… Friends With Benefits.